Mercurio Plastics Shipyard ‒ Offshore wind: A challenging market

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Spanish Mercurio Group found that attending the SeaWorks trade fair in Southampton lead to dedicated shipbuilding for the offshore wind industry. In 2011 they were commissioned by offshore logistics provider Tidal Transit to build two purpose built support vessels for this sector. The Ginny Louise arrived in December 2011 and started work on Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm soon after. The Eden Rose was delivered at the end of April 2012 and, after a quick trip to the Hornsea Met Mast, she went straight to work at Sheringham Shoal offshore wind farm.

Both vessels have remained on their respective initial charters, proving their success. A third vessel of this series is under construction and Tidal Transit have an option for a further 7. With hindsight Mercurio Group managing director Juan Moreno Portillo observes that the Spanish shipyard was well in time to be geared up for new buildings for the offshore wind energy sector. “Prior to the exhibition held three and a half years ago we started developing a design for a vessel of 25 to 28 metres length for many different purposes”, he told Offshore WIND. “A few months after the exhibition we got in touch with Adam Wright at Tidal Transit and started developing the design together with them.”

Mercurio have built up a good relationship with Tidal Transit. Both firms are relatively new to the offshore wind sector. Mercurio Plastics Shipyard was founded in 1997 and focused on building and repairing small glass reinforced plastic (GRP) vessels. Today, the Mercurio Group is parent of Astilleros Mercurio Plastics and Astilleros de Cartagena, the former building composite vessels for the fishing, energy, general freight and passenger/ferry sectors, and the latter providing repair and dry-docking facilities.

Together the Mercurio Group and Tidal Transit developed what the latter calls, “the ultimate no-compromise workboat, specifically designed to serve the demands of the North Sea wind energy industry”. Tidal Transit adds that the Ginny Louise and Eden Rose have been developed to out-perform other vessels, “especially in our short, steep seas”.

Both vessels are MCA Cat 1 coded and equipped with 10,000 litre fuel tanks, allowing the vessels to work up to 150 miles offshore. That is well within the range of the imminent Round 3 offshore wind farms planned in the UK. The vessels have a cruising speed of 25 knots, fully laden, in most weather types, and, in Tidal Transit’s experience, are almost unstoppable. “We have transferred passengers over 70 miles offshore in 2.5 metres swell with less than one rung of movement on the ladder”, the company stated, adding that the vessels provide modern, comfortable overnight accommodation for up to twelve passengers.

Fleet addition

Tidal Transit is delighted with the performance of the two vessels, as is Mercurio Group about the collaboration with the British wind energy service provider. The Spanish shipyard is finalising the building of the third vessel, built to the same specifications as the two sister vessels. Mr Moreno is confident that Tidal Transit, amongst others, will order more.

Tidal Transit already has an option for a further 7 further vessels in addition to the two already deployed and one in build. Commercial director Leo Hambro was quoted saying that ‘the constantly increasing demand will quickly enable Tidal Transit to expand its fleet during the coming years’. The 3rd vessel, named Tia Elizabeth, is due to be launched in Q1 2013. “We are confident that Tidal Transit will be awarded further contracts for the vessels and we will continue to grow together”, says Mr Moreno. “They are happy with our design and the way we approach shipbuilding is quite different. We work in close cooperation with our clients.”

“This is recognised by other customers as well”, he adds, “Siemens and DONG Energy are amongst those that are interested in our products. Recently, we have had three companies from Holland visiting our yard, and they were very impressed with the build quality of our vessels and the shipyard’s facilities.”

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At present, the Mercurio Group focuses on the opportunities that the offshore wind industry provides in Northern European waters, and those off the French and Belgian coasts. Mr Moreno says that it is easy to render quality additional services, as the shipyard involves suppliers based in the UK and mainland Europe, when called for. The Mediterranean is unlikely to be home to many offshore wind farms but its sea conditions are not dissimilar to that of the North Sea so it is a good place to build and test Mercurio’s vessels.

Talking about competition, Mr Moreno observes that the offshore wind market is quite new. “It is a small world. Everybody knows each other and is looking at one another. We like to work on our own, thus making the difference. Our company is not the largest, but is well established in the international market.”

Janny Kok